Guide to compression arm sleeve fabrics

Compression sleeves are made from a variety of different fabrics. Before buying a pair of sleeves it is important to know how each fabric would benefit you. Or more importantly is there a reason you should avoid arm sleeves that are made from a specific material. The following is a short summary of the pros and cons of the main fabrics used in compression arm sleeves.

The most basic arm sleeves are made of nylon. The benefit of nylon is that it is a thin fabric. This makes nylon sleeves a good choice for anyone who wants to discreetly wear compression arm sleeves underneath everyday long sleeved clothing. Nylon is also a very durable fabric, which means that sleeves made from this material will last a long time. Although many compression sleeves are relatively inexpensive no one wants to replace sleeves every three months. This is especially true since most people have several pairs of sleeves so that a clean pair is available while the others are in the wash.

Spandex
Spandex offers some great benefits to compression sleeves. It can expand to ~500% of its resting size and return to its original size after being stretched. Because of this, spandex sleeves will fit the form of any arm and can eliminate the need for custom fitted sleeves. The reason why most sleeves are not 100% spandex is that it is not a breathable fabric. Spandex tends to hold moisture close to the skin, which is not a great thing to have when wearing an arm sleeve all day long. This is why spandex is typically used in conjunction with another fabric for compression sleeves.

Nylon/spandex
For the breathability issue of spandex state above it is usually blended with an additional fabric. This fabric is usually nylon because of its beneficial characteristics. Typically the ratio is in the neighborhood of 80% nylon and 20% spandex. The biggest benefit to using a nylon/spandex composite fabric is that the spandex enables the sleeve to stretch, especially important when donning a sleeve, while the nylon offers compression support and breathability. Both nylon and spandex are durable, long lasting fabrics.

Microfiber
Compression arm sleeves made from microfiber are becoming more common. The reason for this is that like silk, microfiber stretches less than nylon. Microfiber is therefore used in instances where a higher amount of compression as compared to what nylon can offer is needed. However, the most important reason for using a microfiber sleeve is that they are very comfortable to wear, especially when it is necessary to wear a compression sleeve for long periods of time. The main downside of microfiber arm sleeves is that the fabric is a bit bulkier than nylon so it may not be as easy to hide under clothing.

Silk
If synthetic fabrics do not mesh well with your skin there are other options. The most common natural fabric used in compression arm sleeves is silk. Silk is a wonderful fabric. It is not only durable but it is very soft, making it a great choice for anyone with sensitive skin. Silk tends not to stretch as much as nylon does. As a result, silk sleeves generally offer more compression than nylon sleeves. Since silk stretches less than nylon, silk arm sleeves will last longer than those made from nylon. As with microfiber, the biggest weakness of silk compression sleeves is that the fabric is thicker than nylon so it is best used in situations where it is not necessary to conceal under clothing.

Wool
While hard to find, wool or wool blend compression arm sleeves are an option if none of the fabrics above suit your needs. However, typically 100% wool arm sleeves are more for warmth than compression since wool doesn’t hold up as well as other fabrics used for compression sleeves. Wool is often included as a component of arm sleeves for its great moisture wicking properties.

Now that you have an understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of the fabrics that compression arm sleeves are made from it will be an easier process to decide which sleeves you should use. For more help with this decision, read this article with more on how to choose the right compression arm sleeves.

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